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UK troops 'on brink of exhaustion'

Press Association | August 6 2006

The head of the Army defended Britain's military strategy in Afghanistan after it was claimed soldiers were "on the brink of exhaustion".

General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff, told BBC News 24 that tackling the country's security situation was a vital part of nation building.

He said British forces were "getting stuck in" to the Taliban.

But a senior officer told the Sunday Telegraph troops were extremely tired after fighting 25 major battles since May, in temperatures of up to 50C.

"The men are knackered - they are on the brink of exhaustion. They are under considerable duress and have suffered great hardship," he told the newspaper.

"This is a situation which is ultimately unsustainable. The shock of battle, the lack of sleep and back-to-back operations are beginning to impact on the troops.

"They are now close to what is realistically achievable - even for the Paras."

The newspaper said 700 troops were bearing the brunt of the heavy fighting.

It said commanders wanted the overall 3,600 force to be supplemented by another 1,000-strong infantry battle group - over and above the extra 900 soldiers recently committed.

Patrick Mercer, Conservative spokesman for homeland security, said: "Why the Prime Minister is not giving the commanders in Afghanistan the troops they require is completely incomprehensible."

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